Women are familiar with the metaphoric juggling of balls and spinning of plates; in daily life they translate into to-do lists that fill schedules and keep personal and professional lives on track. No matter what age or phase of career they are in, each woman has to find their own right time for everything, including when to get an MBA.
Learn from three women who chose to go back to school at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business during different phases of their lives, from early, mid, to later career. Each phase builds on lessons learned and offers unique challenges alongside opportunities for continued growth.
Full-time MBA Ooha Edupuganti
Ooha Edupuganti first graduated from Georgia Tech in 2019 with an Industrial Engineering degree. A concentration in Supply Chain led her to work long hours for software consulting companies. For three years, she customized and implemented software that tracked packages from the moment they arrived in the warehouse to the moment they shipped out. She soon felt trapped by her technical background and the lack of freedom to explore other options. As scary as it felt, it was time to reset her career.
She began Georgia Tech’s Full-time MBA program in August 2022. In the meantime, Edupuganti learned the importance of prioritizing her long-term goals. That meant sacrificing a salary while she focused on her transition from supply chain to what really inspired her: consumer packaged goods and consulting. Once her commitment to the MBA program became her sole focus, growth came quickly.
“An MBA is as impactful as you make it,” Edupuganti said. “I tried to keep my foot in the door for too many things, and I just wasn’t getting the most value from the program. When I chose to focus on the MBA, I was able to get the most out of the resources provided, got to know my classmates better, and I felt myself growing as a person. It took sacrifice to put the effort into working on myself, but I’m so glad I did.”
It was a change that even her closest friends started to notice. Edupuganti was happier and more confident, not afraid to express herself in meetings or present in front of a group. Her focus and increased confidence led her to a full-time offer from Bain & Company, where she’ll be headed after graduation.
Ooha’s advice for other twenty-somethings:
“A career is not permanent. I think a lot of women don’t let go of things that aren’t working in their lives because they’re scared they won’t find something better than what they currently have. Being in our 20s, we're at such a young age that now is a time to experiment. We have a lot more leeway than we will in the next 10 years. Make changes now.”
Evening MBA Oluwaseun Adebara
Oluwaseun Adebara moved to the United States from Nigeria in 2018 with an undergraduate degree in engineering. The longer she worked as a sales representative for a tech company, the greater her determination grew to get another degree, despite the difficulty of navigating the difference in education systems. She was unfamiliar with the impact of an MBA but came to notice that all the female CEOs she admired held the advanced degree.
After months of fact finding and gathering information about Atlanta’s top MBA programs, she decided that Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business felt most like an academic home. But there was one caveat that she could not ignore: she could not afford to quit her full-time job.
That’s when she discovered Georgia Tech’s part-time Evening MBA for working professionals. Classes went from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. during the week. She would be able to keep her salary and continue her education so she could accelerate her career.
“The MBA journey has been a true education,” she explained. “I was able to come from class and apply what I learned the following week at work. It was a perfect marriage of getting a classroom experience and applying it to my daily life.”
Her daily life became very full very quickly. Work during the day led straight into school in the evenings. Any spare time was dedicated to planning her December 2023 wedding. Preparing a homemade meal, something she always enjoyed, became infrequent. She gave up social events with friends and time with her fiancée. But she knew it would pass and had already seen the impact of an MBA. During her second semester of the MBA, she was hired as a management consultant at an IT firm.
Oluwaseun’s advice for other thirty-somethings:
“If you are thinking of getting a part-time MBA, go for it, but know that for a period, your time isn’t going to be yours anymore. I think that commitment is underestimated, and people don’t talk about it enough. Is it possible? Yes, absolutely. There will be things, especially as a woman, that you will have to give up.”
Executive MBA Maria Guzman
Maria Guzman is frank about her successes and her failures; she has come to see each as catalysts for opportunity. Her family migrated from Mexico to the U.S. in the late 1980s. After dropping out of high school, she worked in the manufacturing space where her ability to speak English and Spanish were seen as essential and important.
She was told that without any further education, the job she had in her late teens would be the job she would always have. Determined to listen to her mentor at work, she first earned her GED in less than six months and went on to earn her bachelor's over six long years of night classes with a small child at home.
She was later promoted as the human resources leader for her company. “The C-Suite discusses a lot of business, financials, acquisitions—details that quite honestly I didn't have in my skillset,” Guzman said. “The chief accounting officer told me in a very nice way that if I wanted to progress my career to VP of HR, I was going to have to sit at that table and have the financial and business acumen to support myself.”
The CAO then encouraged Guzman to apply to Georgia Tech’s Executive MBA program. She became even more grateful for the support of colleagues, family, and friends once she started the program in August 2022. Her life changed over the last 17 months as she learned how to alternatively prioritize work, school, and family.
Now, the finish line is near. She graduates in December 2023. Since starting the program Guzman’s daughter joined the Air Force, she’s missed some family time, she’s traveled to South Africa with the Executive MBA program, and she started a new job as senior director of human resources. The things Guzman once thought were out of her reach she’s found well within her grasp.
Maria’s advice to other forty-somethings:
“Sometimes we doubt ourselves as women because we have so many things going on and we come from so many different backgrounds that we let imposter syndrome get in the way. I want to convince women of all ages that anything you want to do is possible.”
Note: This story was originally published on Forté Foundation's Business 360 blog.